If there’s one thing Department of Writing delegates will know before arriving at the Canadian Creative Writers and Writing Programs conference this week, it’s that size does matter. Unlike its American counterpart, the CCWWP is expecting about 200 attendees at their third biennial conference this weekend at UBC, instead of the thousands who attend the AWP.
“We’re what you might call intimate,” says Department of Writing professor and current CCWWP chair Lynne Van Luven. “Because our numbers are manageable, students can meet with publishers and editors, as well as with each other—and while writers come to such events to renew old friendships, they also come to hear from new writers with new ideas, which is much easier at a small-scale conference.”
Formed in 2010 to address the need for a Canadian professional organization devoted to supporting the teaching of creative writing in its myriad forms, the goal of the fledgling CCWWP is to be as inclusive as possible. That means it’s an organization not only for academics and instructors, but also for creative writers and students working in various languages, and in all types of venues and situations.
Current Writing faculty members (from left) Kevin Kerr, Tim Lilburn, David Leach, Lynne Van Luven,
Lee Henderson, Maureen Bradley, Lorna Jackson, Bill Gaston and Joan MacLeod
Keynote speakers at this year’s conference include Giller Prize-winner Joseph Boyden, Commonwealth Award-winner Lisa Moore and noted author Amy Bloom. Attending on behalf of UVic’s Writing department are undergraduate students Nadia Grutter and Patrick Close, graduate students JoAnn Dionne and Danielle Janess, recent MFA graduates Frances Backhouse and Aaron Shepard, alumna Andrea Routely and faculty members Bill Gaston, David Leach, Tim Lilburn, Kevin Kerr and, of course, Van Luven herself.
“I’m delighted to see both our undergraduate and graduate students participating in the conference,” says Van Luven, who also sat on the first provisional board back in 2010. “This is a chance for them to network with key persons in the publishing industry, as well as with their peers.”
Grutter, Close and Routley are joining Van Luven in presenting “So you want to start an on-line magazine?” at Friday’s publishing, editing, & technology panel, showcasing some of the work that’s being done in departmental projects like the Coastal Spectator online review magazine and Routely’s queer literary magazine Plenitude. Meanwhile, Dionne and Janess taking part in the student reading event alongside alum Kayla Czaga (Arc). For their part, Backhouse and Shepard will be participating in the “From MFA to Page and Stage: Getting Your Thesis Published or Produced” panel on Saturday, alongside fellow Writing alumni Peter Boychuk and Melanie Siebert. Also attending is alumni novelist Aislinn Hunter (Stay), who is participating in the Friday panel “What’s the Matter? Thinking, Writing and Teaching through Things.”
“We have had a wonderful Conference Committee for this event, under the steady direction of Andrew Gray from UBC,” says Van Luven, who will also be hosting Saturday’s plenary session on “Writing Programs in a Global Context”, featuring a panel of international writing teachers. “I’ve had the opportunity to interface with writers and teachers all across the country, which has been an added benefit of being chair of the CCWWP board for the past two years.”
UVic’s Department of Writing will also be represented at the conference’s book and magazine fair, which is open to the public and will feature some of Canada’s finest literary publications and presses: The Malahat Review, SubTerrain, PRISM international, Arc, Fiddlehead, Event, Geist, Rice Paper, Filling Station, The Capilano Review, Eighteen Bridges, New Quarterly, Room Magazine and Broken Pencil, as well as Alberta Book Publishers, Association of Book Publishers of BC, UBC Bookstore, PEN International, Anvil Press, McGill-Queens University Press, Granville Island Publishing, Reality Skimming Press, Kwantlen Creative Writing, Literary Press Group, UBC Press, Harbour Publishing, Nightwood Editions, Douglas & McIntyre, and Lone Pine Publishing.
The CCWWP conference runs May 15 to 18, 2014, on the UBC campus in Vancouver.
While their printed format may have changed, the local Monday Magazine is still running their annual M Awards honouring what they describe as “Greater Victoria’s best and brightest in the arts and entertainment field.” Fine Arts faculty, students, staff and alumni have been frequent nominees and winners in the past, and this year’s lineup is no different.
Rather than list all nominees in each category, we’ve just listed the Fine Arts associated nominees below, and you can vote online here. According to the rules, you can only vote online once, and must vote in a minimum of 20 categories. Voting closes at 5pm Friday, May 30—and you’ll automatically be entered to win $75 at Zambri’s.
- Top Electronic Artist: The Krells (featuring School of Music’s Kirk McNally and John Celona)
- Top Avant Garde/New Music Artist/Composer or Group: School of Music concert manager Kristy Farkas is nominated alongside Aventa Ensemble (under the direction of Music’s Bill Linwood), as well as Music alumni Daniel Brandes, Christopher Reiche and Alex Jang. It’s worth noting that every nominee in this category is associate with UVic’s School of Music!
- Top Classical Artist or Group: the Lafayette String Quartet
- Top Overall Production: the Phoenix production The Skin of Our Teeth is nominated alongside Theatre professor Brian Richmond‘s production of My Fair Lady for his Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre (which he also starred in, alongside grad Kholby Wardell). Phoenix talent were also involved in nominated shows Calendar Girls (featuring Randi Edmunson) and Will Weigler‘s From the Heart.
- Top Improv/Sketch or Variety Show: alumna Britt Small‘s Atomic Vaudeville company is nominated, alongside Paper Street Theatre, which features Monica Ogden.
- Top Emerging Company/Artist: Kerploding Theatre, run by Phoenix alum Mollison Farmer; Impulse Theatre, run by Andrew Barrett, New Blood Theatre, Robin Gadsby and Kieran Wilson
- Top Original Production: Kitt & Jane by the Phoenix Theatre alumni company SNAFU, featuring the talents of Ingrid Hansen and Katherine Greenfield, who are also nominated for the SNAFU/WHoS co-production Fractured Fables; From the Heart: Enter the Journey of Reconciliation, by Phoenix PhD alum and former instructor Will Weigler; Paper Street Theatre’s An Improvised Quentin Tarrantino featured Phoenix student Monica Ogden ; New Blood Theatre’s Judgement Day starred alumni Robin Gadsby and Kieran Wilson; and also featured the talents of Greenfield and Hansen.
- Top Spoken Word Performer: Writing undergraduate and former City of Victoria Youth Poet Laureate Aysia Law has earned a well-deserved nominated in this category
Be sure to add your vote to the efforts of our top achieving faculty, staff, students and alumni!
If you still think video games are mere distractions that don’t really matter, it’s time to get into the 21st century—where gaming is a $2 billion industry in Canada alone, generating $24 million in Victoria. Expand that worldwide and you’re looking at $63 billion in 2013, with projected growth up to $78 billion by 2017.
Participants at UVic’s Games Without Frontiers conference in 2013
According to the recent economic study Getting Our Game On: An Impressive Growth Snapshot of Victoria’s Digital Gaming Industry, Victoria’s gaming sector currently boasts 19 studios, employs 240 people and spent most of that $24 million on research and development—and most of those studios are looking to hire co-op students and graduates.
All of which makes it the perfect time to launch the new Technology & Society course The History of Video Games and Interactive Media. Sponsored by Fine Arts, this recurring T&S elective is set to investigate the intersection of technology, society, the entertainment industry and the creative arts through a study of video games and gaming culture. (Technology & Society Director and Writing professor David Leach also organized the extremely popular and successful gaming mini-conference Games Without Frontiers at UVic’s IdeaFest in 2013.)
Helmed by sessional instructor Ashley Blacquiere, The History of Video Games will look back at not only influential games and designers, evolving genres and technological innovations but will also study the integration of sound, visual art, narrative and interactive game play. Classes will consider emergent sub-cultures and online communities while debating social controversies, media depictions and the internationalization of gaming culture.
“The chronology is the backbone of the course, but we’ll jump off into different topics of game studies—gender representation, violence, things like that,” says Blacquiere.
Set phasers to fun for Space Wars!
And while most people over the age of 40 probably think of Pong as the earliest video game, Blacquiere can trace it back even further. “Pong was popular in the early ‘70s, but you can step back at least a half-dozen years earlier,” he says. “Space Wars is largely considered the first real video game and was developed on a mainframe computer at MIT by a group of ne’erdowells who thought the computer could better be used to create something fun than for academic purposes.”
Course instructor Ashley Blacquiere
A life-long gamer, practicing video game designer and educator, Blacquiere holds a B.Sc. in Mathematics from the University of Prince Edward Island and a Masters of Digital Media from Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Digital Media. He has worked on a variety of games, ranging from small experimental/indie games developed solo or with small teams (Big Hadron Games), through mid-sized social games played through Facebook (Gnosis Chinese Checkers, Kingdom of Thrones, Viking Clan), and large AAA productions with major game development studios ([PROTOTYPE 2], Dying Light). He is particularly interested in the design of digitally “enhanced” games played in social spaces, and games that explore social connections.
As such, Blacquiere intends to provide students with more than just a history of the industry. “Hopefully they’ll come away with a better critical understanding of games,” he says. “It’s easy to pick up a game and play it without thinking about it too much, but there’s such a wide variety of media out there these days that don’t fit in the traditional definitions of what a game is.”
While no actual gaming background is required for the course, an open mind is definitely an asset—especially when it comes to the “interactive media” aspect of the course. “If you look at any other medium—a film or novel, for example—it exists in its own world. With a movie, you’re a passive participant in a story and with a novel, you live in the character’s head,” he explains. “But with games, you have an interactive media and can really live the experience. Looking at the history of games lets us think about the different types of experience we can share and, looking forward, imagine new interactive scenarios and opportunities. As games mature, they can provide us with alternative viewpoints and new perspectives.”
Passage takes you through life’s journey
Case in point? The recent “game” Passage, where the player ages—and dies—all in five minutes. “There’s very little ‘game’ in the experience, but the point of death is very poignant,” says Blacquiere. “It’s been able to provide an experience to people who have never had a moment of loss before. There are people who say they truly cried at the end of the game—which, incidentally, is Steven Spielberg’s metric of whether a game has reached the form of ‘high art’.”
Blacquiere points to Passage as a simple example of where the industry is going. “There are all sorts of things out there that are very different from the traditional definition of game; they’re interactive experiences with value, but where do we fit them in the broad gaming sense? That’s what I hope students come away with—a broader perspective.”
Finally, will there be any actual gaming going on in class? “I hope to have one game per class available for students to play, starting with a Java version of Space Wars,” he chuckles. “I’m going to try and match the games to each lecture.”